Roadtrek

Roadtrek

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

SHORE POWER

This is the fourth article in our series on electricity in your Roadtrek and the third type of electric power that we will talk about that you have available. You are on "shore" power when your Roadtrek (or any RV) is plugged directly into a 110/120 volt outlet. This is the most unlimited source of electricity that you can have in your Roadtrek.When your Roadtrek is plugged into shore power all of your electric appliances and 110/120 volt outlets will work. When your Roadtrek is plugged into shore power, your vehicle's engine battery and your coach batteries are being charged.

The Roadtrek has a 30 amp electric circuit. Larger RVs may have a 50 amp electric circuits. The larger number of amps you have allows you to plug in and use more amp drawing appliances and electric devices. Without getting into a technical explanation, if you plugged more than 30 amps into the Roadtrek outlets you would trip the circuit breaker - either in the Roadtrek or at the external outlet - or both. When you look at the plug that your Roadtrek has connected to its power cord outside, you will see a large plug with three prongs - and those prongs are larger and look different from a usual house electric cord. (Just for your understanding, if you looked at a 50 amp plug you would see four prongs on a much larger plug.)

When you go to a campground and look in the electric box on the power pedestal at your campsite you will usually see three outlets. One will be a very large outlet with four holes. This is the 50 amp outlet. One will be large and have three holes. This is the 30 amp outlet. One will look exactly like the outlets that you have in your house. This is the 20 amp outlet. When you take your Roadtrek cord out of its storage cabinet outside the van and plug it in, you are going to use that mid-sized large outlet with the large three holes. Each of the outlets in the box will also have a circuit breaker above it or below it. At one campground we went to, instead of circuit breaker switches there were glass fuses. You may be at a campsite that has only 30 amp/20 amp service - in this case you will only see two outlets in the box, the 30 amp outlet and the 20 amp outlet and no four hole fifty amp outlet.

Before plugging your Roadtrek cord plug into the outlet make sure all of those circuit breakers in the campground electric box are OFF. Plug in your Roadtrek cord and THEN turn the circuit breaker for that outlet ON. Before you unplug, turn the breaker OFF and then pull the plug. The reason for this should be obvious. If the circuit breaker is OFF then there is no power and no danger of shock from that outlet when you plug in.

You are going to ignore the 50 amp outlet and the 20 amp outlet. You don't need those. There are some circumstances when you may need to use one of those but we will talk about that later. For now, not to complicate things - you need 30 amps so use the 30 amp outlet.

Before I plug into any campground outlet I do two tests of the campground outlet. I test the polarity of the outlet and the number of volts that the outlet is putting out. The reason that I do this is because sometimes a campground electric box is old, has been damaged, or has a wire come loose and the polarity (shows all wires have been connected where they should be) may be wrong. I also want to be sure that the outlet is not under voltage or over voltage - both of which can damage the electric system in your Roadtrek (or any RV) if you plug into it. To do these tests you need a polarity tester and a volt meter. Both are not hard to find - the polarity tester is the easiest to find. Any electric/lighting department in a home store or even Walmart will have a polarity tester for a few dollars. This looks just like a home plug with no wire but with three lights on top and a little chart right on the top of the plug. You plug this in and look at the lights that light. Match the lights to the pattern that shows "GOOD" on the chart and you are fine. A voltage meter is a little more difficult to find and are a bit more expensive. The easy find for this is a device called a "Kill-A-Watt" which is a multi-use tester also sold in home stores that will not only measure and tell you how many volts are on an outlet but also will measure the number of amps and watts used by an appliance plugged into this device and then this plugged into an outlet. For your RV you mainly want the volt meter function that this device has built in. You plug the meter into the outlet and push the proper button for a voltage reading and you will see the voltage that the outlet is putting out digitally on the screen.  The reading should be no lower than 110 and no higher than 132 - though you really do not want to be over 130. These two testers are made for 110/120 volt - 15/20 amp outlets and you want to test a 30 amp outlet. You simply buy a 30 amp plug to 15/20 amp outlet adapter. This is a thick wire - like your Roadtrek power cord with a household three prong socket on one end and a 30 amp large round plug just like your Roadtrek power cord has on the other end. With the campground power box circuit breaker off, tester into the socket end of the adapter and then plug the adapter plug into the 30 amp outlet in the power box. Now turn on the circuit breaker in the power box and take your reading. Turn off the circuit breaker, unplug the first tester and then plug in the second - turn on the circuit breaker and take your reading. Turn off the circuit breaker. Unplug the adapter from the power box and put your adapter and testers away.

What do you do if any of your readings on your tests are NO GOOD? The best thing to do is go to the campground office and let them know and request another site. If they do not have another site then be sure that they have a maintenance person come to your power box to fix the problem. 

You could just plug your Roadtrek power cord plug into the box, but it is a good idea to have something in your electric line that will protect your RV just in case. What you need is an RV power protection device. There are two popular makes - Surge Guard and Progressive. Both do the same job. Some prefer one over the other. There are models that can be wired permanently into your RV electric system and there are portable models that simply plug into the campground outlet and you plug your power cord into the protector outlet. These are not cheap and they are much, much more than a surge protector like what you plug your computer into at home. You can purchase these directly from the companies that make them or you can find them at RV supply stores. We chose the Surge Guard but only for convenience in ordering as it is the one that is sold at Camping World.


Above you see the Surge Guard plugged into the power outlet of the campground and the power cord of my Roadtrek. You also see that the electric box has your space number on it. You cannot mistake which box is the one you are supposed to plug into. At some campgrounds your box will be next to the box for the next space. Here there is only one box.

 The power protector unit is going to monitor the voltage coming out of the box. Believe it or not, just because it tested correctly when you checked with your volt meter does not mean that conditions do not change in the voltage at the campground over time and the voltage go too low or too high. Also it will protect from spikes and surges due to lighting strikes. This is a must have. Repairing your RVs electric system and replacing your TV and electronics is far more expensive than the $300 plus that one of these sells for. You can buy a lock box that will prevent the theft of your portable power unit. Watch this video about the Surge Guard Power Protector.

Now before you plug your surge/power protector in or your Roadtrek power cord in, go inside your Roadtrek and turn on your battery switch. There is a large sticker on the wall of my Roadtrek that tells me to do this - and that is why I do.






 Now - plug in your Roadtrek power plug into the surge/power protector and then plug the surge/power protector into the campground pedestal. Turn on the campground power outlet's circuit breaker and you are almost good to go. The surge/power protector has a delay of about three minutes. You will see the power light come on but you will not have power inside your Roadtrek until you hear a click and an LED comes on to say all circuits are good and power is now flowing. Sometimes these will seem like very long three minutes.

When you go inside your Roadtrek you now have 110/120 volt power in all of the electric outlets. You will see the display panel on your microwave has come on. Your air conditioner can now be turned on. You can watch TV. You can plug whatever you like into the outlets. You can even turn on the microwave while the air conditioner is running. You have plenty of power.

Worth repeating - While you are plugged into shore power your coach batteries and your van battery is being charged. This is a secondary benefit to shore power.

I had talked above about the other two outlets in the campground power box. If you found that the 30 amp outlet had a problem - and you cannot be moved to another space or no one is coming to fix it, with a 50 amp to 30 amp adapter - another plug adapter - you could plug your 30 amp Roadtrek into the 50 amp outlet - and because of how the adapter is made, you will only be taking 30 amps from that outlet. If you were to do this - test the 50 amp outlet using both adapters to plug your testers in. The using the 50 amp adapter you can plug in your Roadtrek or you can plug in your 30 amp surge/power protector into the 50 amp outlet (again with the adapter) and then plug your Roadtrek into that. Again, with the adapter you are only taking 30 amps into your Roadtrek.

That 15/20 amp house-type outlet in the power box can be used if you want to plug a regular household cord connected to lights, radio, or whatever while you are outside. This is just like your outlets at home.

With everything that I have told you here, you are ready to plug your Roadtrek into a campground electric outlet, but what if you are at home and want to plug your Roadtrek in? No problem. I do this all of the time.

Rarely will you have a 30 amp outlet at home, but you have outdoor outlets that are either 15 amps or 20 amps. You can plug your Roadtrek into one of these - as long as you understand certain things and also have a special adapter and a special extension cord (if your Roadtrek cord does not reach on its own). Let's talk about plugging in first.

At home you don't need to do all of the tests. It is your home outlet and hopefully it is wired correctly. If in doubt - do the tests. I also always use the surge/power protector even at home.  You do need another type of 15 amp to 30 amp adapter. This is very much like the other adapter described above except that it has a 15 amp plug and a 30 amp socket. (All of these adapters can be purchased at an RV store and also at Walmart in the RV section of the auto department.) So you plug your adapter into your outside house outlet and plug your Roadtrek power cord into that - following the exact same steps as above - battery switch on, etc. Don't worry here about the circuit breaker being on - this is just like plugging anything else in at home. If your power cord for your Roadtrek does not reach you should not use a household extension cord - even a heavy-duty one. These are too low a gauge of wire and will get hot and can catch fire. You want an RV 30 amp extension cord. The thickness of the wire of this cord will match your Roadtrek power cord and it will have a 30 amp plug and socket. These cost about $50 at Walmart - again in the RV section, and this is worth the price of not setting your house, etc. on fire.

You need to understand that you only have up to half of the amps that your Roadtrek is designed for. This is only a problem if you turn on electrical devices in your Roadtrek that exceed a total of what you have at the outlet - either 15 amps or 20 amps. I have 20 amps at my outside outlet and nothing else is connected to the circuit that this outlet is on. That means that I have 20 amps to use in my Roadtrek. With that I can run the air conditioner, the TV, a laptop, the lights, but not much more. There is no way that I could turn on the microwave with the air conditioner running. If I did I would trip the circuit breaker for that outlet inside my house. I would have overloaded the circuit - which can be dangerous if the circuit breaker did not do its job and shut off power instantly on the overload. Not all outside outlets are on a circuit in your home circuit breaker panel by themselves. Some share other circuits in your house. If it does, then you must subtract those amps on that other outlet(s) from what you have available to your Roadtrek. This means you can turn on or plug in even less inside your Roadtrek. Just be aware. If you visit friends and are going to plug into their outside outlet while you stay on their driveway, you may be tripping their circuit breaker if you are not aware of how many amps you have to use. How do you decide this? Ask what else in the house is on that circuit breaker and if there is another room or whatever, then figure that you have little to use in the Roadtrek. You may be able to use everything but the microwave or the air conditioner (never both). Be conservative in what you turn on or plug in. 

I often plug in at home when I want to charge my coach batteries. Just about any outlet from your house will handle this without a problem. You will need a 30 amp to 15 amp adapter which are available where RV accessories are sold including Walmart. Be aware that if there are any other outlets on the circuit breaker in your house that is connected to the outlet you are plugging your Roadtrek in, anything plugged into other outlets on that circuit breaker reduces the number of amps available to the outlet you have your Roadtrek plugged into. So a 15 amp or a 20 amp outlet at your house MAY NOT be providing a full 15 amps or 20 amps to the outlet you are plugging your Roadtrek into.


I have tried to keep this simple and how to. Everything electric uses amps. The total amps you can use is limited to either your 30 amp limit in the Roadtrek or the amp limit of your power source - which is up to and no more than 30 amps but with a household outlet may be much less than 30.


When plugged into a 30 amp shore power outlet at a campground you have the full capacity of the electric system in your Roadtrek.

12 comments:

  1. I just acquired a 1998 190-Versatile on Dodge chassis. The owners manual doesn't say anything about switching on the battery disconnect prior to connecting to shore power. Should I assume that it should be on? Wouldn't that facilitate charging the cabin battery?

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    1. At some point Roadtrek started putting stickers inside next to the battery switch that says Turn on Battery before connecting to external power. This may have come with the change from the older model's separate inverter and then a converter/charger and the newer models' TrippLite 3-way inverter/converter/charger. It cannot hurt to put the battery switch on - essentially what you are doing then is putting on the 12 volt system. While connected to shore power you will be charging the batteries at the same time so you are taking out 12 volt power for the lights, water pump, etc. and putting a charge back into the coach battery at the same time.

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  2. We have a 2008 Roadtrek 210P which we bought used July 2011. It always seemed that the house batteries did not charge when plugged in to shore power. Then, this last weekend we went camping and noticed that the battery charge indicator went from "G" to "F" and finally to "L" while we were plugged in to shore power (coffee maker and microwave all worked). Also, the lights on the fridge went off although it was set to "AC" when battery charge went to "L". What do you think is happening?
    Thanks in advance and we love your blog!

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    1. In a 2008 210 you have a TrippLite 750w inverter/converter/charger that manages all of the electricity in your Roadtrek. The same unit charges your batteries, inverts 12 v to 110 v and also converts 110v to 12 v. I would start looking there for the problem. First - I assume that your battery switch was set to ON when you were plugged in - it should be. Look at the actual inverter unit - not the switch on the wall. There will be a slide switch on the front - right labeled "Charge Only", left labeled "Auto/Remote" and the middle position is OFF. Make sure it is set to the left - Auto/Remote. There is a photo of the inverter in my article that on the index page is listed as "Locating the Inverter". Your inverter may not be located in the same place - likely it is not, but the inverter unit is the same and you will see this switch in the last photo. Also look at my Inverter article and there is a link there to the manual which will explain the LEDs on the unit. You can troubleshoot the unit with the LEDs. Make sure it is actually light up correctly once you see that the switch is where it belongs. When plugged in, it is the inverter unit that sends the charge to both your coach battery(ies) and your engine battery. The other possibility is that your coach battery(ies) is bad and needs replacement. From 2008 until now that is possible. Have you been checking the fluid levels in the batteries regularly. If that fluid is low, it will not give power and will not charge. Any service station (car) can check the electrolyte in the battery and see if the cells inside are good. This will tell you immediately if the battery needs to be replaced. Remember you must replace with a deep cycle RV/Marine battery - either wet cell or AGM. (AGM requires a change of dip switch on the inverter unit.) - you can't use a regular vehicle starting battery. Let me know what happens!

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  3. Thanks for your prompt response. I have done some checking: The battery fluid levels are fine (the batteries are less than a year old). As for the inverter when the generator is on and the inverter is in "Auto/Remote", the "Batt Voltage" red LED is on and the "Line" yellow LED is on. In "Charge Only" mode, there are no LEDs lit. When the generator is off the situation is the same.
    We're this weekend we're travelling and will be staying at a campground with shore power. I'll check the inverter then.

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    1. The last thing left to try would be to "reset" the inverter - a simple process which is described in the Tripp Lite manual.

      Beyond that, this is definitely something a service tech is going to have to troubleshoot. You will be able to get by with shore power but if the battery is not charging this has to be corrected. A dead battery will result in not being able to start the generator and you will have no coach lighting, propane detector, or CO detector unless plugged in.

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  4. I just bought a 2015 roadtrek 190, how long can you keep it pluged in to shore power, just wondering. Thak you for any information. Mike.

    e-mail michaelg6907@gmail.com

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    1. Theoretically, indefinitely. The inverter/converter/charger will monitor the battery state and pause charging when the batteries are at max capacity, and the AGM batteries have no fluid to keep checking and should not be damaged. I have heard of some that just leave it plugged in. I am not sure that I would. Unless you have a need to have 110/120 volt power on inside all of the time, plug it in when you need to be plugged in.

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  5. i have just bought a 2012 advenurous and have lost ac - no matter if shore power
    generator or battery power
    inverter reset and leds look good
    thanks for the help

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  6. Email us through the contact link and we can talk this through to try to figure out what is happening. Or contact Roadtrek customer service to speak with a factory technician. You don't mention checking circuit breakers. All 110 volt AC are on circuit breakers.

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  7. Hi! I don't have a roadtrek, but a Winnabego rialta my coach battery is being drained and I can't figure out why, so I until I can get it checked: how long do I need to plug in the shoreline to get a good charge?

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    1. This depends on how fast the converter/charger in your Winnabego charges the batteries. In the Roadtrek with the TrippLite 750, if the batteries drain to dead or below half charge it can can anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to charge them back to full. It takes longer to charge RV batteries back to full charge if they have drained past half charge - and draining that low also decreases the number of charge cycles the battery has in its life. As to why the battery is draining - make sure you are not leaving your battery switch on if you are not using the RV. That is only one possibility but it is common to forget to turn off the battery switch after a trip and the RV is just sitting parked for a period of time.

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